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U.N. Energy Efficiency Mandate for Shipping Industry

Roughly 50,000 ships carry 90 percent of the worlds trade cargo every year, and unbeknownst to most, these ships tend to run on a heavily polluting oil...

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|Jul 15|magazine7 min read

Roughly 50,000 ships carry 90 percent of the worlds trade cargo every year, and unbeknownst to most, these ships tend to run on a heavily polluting oil known as bunker fuel.  The United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) has decided to regulate both seafaring cargo and transport vessels to meet new energy efficiency and carbon emission guidelines.  Unlike attempts by the U.N. to regulate carbon emissions in other sectors, this new set of rules will be applied equally to all U.N. countries regardless of whether they are industrialized or developing.

According to the IMO, shipping was responsible for 2.7 percent of global carbon emissions in 2007, but that could double or even triple by mid-century if no action is taken now.

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The IMO’s Environmental Protection Committee concluded at a weeklong meeting that all ships built in the future must reduce pollution from today’s averages.  The levels of emissions reduction will be based on an efficiency index for ships of varying sizes and types.  The mandates state that shipbuilders may decide exactly how to meet the new standards.

“As long as the required energy-efficiency level is attained, ship designers and builders would be free to use the most cost-efficient solutions for the ship to comply with the regulations,” the resolution said.

“This is a very positive and important first step for a truly global, binding measure to reduce CO2 emissions,” Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner on climate action, said from Brussels.

The new rules mandate that ships contracted in the first five years after 2015 must improve fuel efficiency by 10 percent.  The standards are to be tightened every subsequent five years.  By 2030, a 30 percent reduction rate would be set for most types of ships, based on the average of those built between 1999 to 2009.

The committee is also debating on whether to charge ships for carbon emissions, however, the delegation cannot yet agree on how such taxes would be spent.